Desires can be defining. So when we experience an enduring loss of desire, it can be confusing. We need to challenge why our desires are so powerful in the first place. Desires can drive us to dream. To live out of our longings. But. Desires are poor leaders. They do not offer us clear direction. They are easily influenced…. and can easily influence. They promise to fill us if we follow them … only … we end up empty, again and again.
So when grieving a loss of desire, we have to ask ourselves what our hearts are hungry for. The question is not just what our hearts want, but what they need. Often, though, our hearts don’t know what they want or need. We get confused and lost. Our longings are an ache of pain that tears through our souls like hunger sears through our bodies. Even the Scriptures say: Our hearts are deceiving (Jeremiah 17:9). Our desires can lead us astray (James 1:14). When we hear this, I don’t want us to hear it as an attack. These warnings are not from a place of judgment or condemnation, but love. We need to be wary of trusting our selves, for when tempted, our desires can entice us away from God, when He longs for us to entrust our hearts to Him.
What our desires reveal is our hearts. We have these hole-y hearts that echo of emptiness. We don’t know what we truly need, so we start chasing things that we think we want, only to discover that we need endless filling. We have hungry hearts, with deep-seated needs and cravings.
So Jesus is very intentional when He calls on language of food and water in His teachings. He declares that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and the source of Living Water (John 4:14). He paints a picture for God’s People, referring to imagery they are familiar with, and more, to tangible measures of satisfaction. He is telling the crowds that only He can satisfy – that those who come to Him will never thirst nor hunger.
What a promise for the starving and poverty-stricken.
What a hope for the hungry heart.
All our hearts desires and longings, answered in him.
And wait. There’s more.
When Jesus says that He comes to bring “life to the full”, He is speaking about an abundance; a fullness, a wholeheartedness that can come only from Him. John 10:10b in the NIV captures the fullness “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.“, the ESV fleshes out the abundance “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.“
Jesus knows our desires can lead us to deceptive sources of fulfilment; He himself was tempted:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (check out the full passage, Matthew 4:1-11)
Notice that it was when Jesus was hungry that the tempter came? How often is it times when we are in want that we can be tempted to turn to anything that offers to satisfy? We want pain to go away, so we take tablets that numb. We want emotions to go away, so we scroll through social media. Or, the opposite. We don’t want to be alone, so we fill our diaries (an illusion of “busy”) so we don’t feel lonely. We don’t want to disappoint people, so we say “yes” to everything. But how does Jesus respond to hunger?
we have established that we have hungry hearts:
with this longing, this aching, this desire for life-giving supply, for sustenance, for filling.
and we have encountered Jesus:
who knows hunger, who knows our hearts, who knows desire, who knows life;
and more, who answers our hunger, who fills our hearts, who shapes our desire, who gives us life
– in and through HIMSELF –
He not only responds to our need, he goes above and beyond our need so that we shall not be in want, that we shall have the abundance of life that comes from Him — and that can ONLY come from Him, for He is the ONLY one who can give Eternal Life, Resurrection Life. Wow.
To be eternally filled, whole, satisfied; we need Jesus.
Given my gradual loss of desire, I have been returning to this truth in the teaching and character of Jesus. In a dry and dark season I have had to press in to the very presence of the only One who can truly satisfy and answer these deep places. I have found myself not only lacking in desire, but lacking clarity in the past-present-future and lacking direction and the ability to dream.
In the place of faith there has certainly been fear.
Yet in the uncertainty and ambiguity, my appetite remains. I may not be full with desire, but I can press into His desires, His fullness. Where I am lacking, He is suffice. And because of His abundant mercy, He is patient in loving us even when we have forgotten what love is….. Because when we lose desire we don’t only lose our longings, we actually lose the ability to feel and love and hurt and hope (my last post addressed this numbness, the relationship between a lack of feeling and lack of filling).
Desires are fleeting. Our hearts are very forgetful. (Why do you think the Lord needed to repeatedly tell the prophets to tell His people to “remember” and “hear” and “return”. Why do you think we even need to be called to confession and repentance?!). When we enter a season where we are without desire, instead of entering into despair, it is an opportunity to press in. To delve into why we feel empty, why we need filling.
when we allow our forgetful hearts to reflect on God’s desire for us
– His desire for our desire –
we start to remember, we start to feel, we start to be filled
with the knowledge and love and truth and good purposes of God.
When we abide in Him, dwell with Him, spend time investing in Him – we find ourselves learning more of His heart. Suddenly His desire starts to take shape in us, to fill us – changing our hearts and our desires.
Here – ABIDING in Him – we ABOUND in desire.
This is the abundance of lovely.
If we return to the hungry heart, we realise that we need to starve off some of our unhealthy desires before we can learn to be satisfied with healthy desire. In the Scriptures, we see this modelled in fasting. In the passage I shared earlier, Jesus was fasting for forty days from food. There are many motives for fasting, which can be healthy and unhealthy in and of themselves. In Jewish tradition, one reason for fasting was reflecting and repenting. What, however, did Jesus have to repent of, being without sin?! A more helpful analysis is to turn to Isaiah 53, where we are given a portrait of ‘true’ fasting:
“…if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
the Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
you will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.” (10-11)
Interestingly, the above excerpt reveals a fasting that is a spending, before a filling. Wow. Seeking to serve others, not self. To satisfy others, not self. To look to the needs of others, not self. Because our selves and our needs are served and satisfied by the Lord. How good! True fasting. And this sounds and looks like the fasting we see modelled by Jesus: who spent Himself for us, the suffering servant who surrendered up His will for His Father’s will. For us to fast is to follow this model.
So when it comes to desire, we distance ourselves from that which we crave in our carnal bodies. We deny our self, as Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6:14, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
We deny our desires of power, choosing instead to follow Jesus.
We live by the Spirit, the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the grave.
Just as the Spirit has resurrection power over death,
the same Spirit has power in our life, to raise up new desire in place of the old.
This is He “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5).
The powerful act of fasting is that we are depriving our body. We ask ourselves to suppress hunger, to starve the flesh so that we can fix our attention off our own appetite. There are also other forms of fasting, as ultimately, it is a deliberate act of deprivation and denial. Personally, I have chosen to sacrifice social media by fasting from Instagram for a month. Below are my reflections so far (third-through).
When I lost all desire, even for life itself, it caused me to worry and weary myself out. I was desperate to deny and discount this lack of desire. Alike the stages of grief, I was grieving my own heart. I was in denial that my desires were gone. So I tried to distract myself, and scrolling makes that easy. I tried to hide my hopelessness, to bury the desire-less days within the mundane. I tried to hope that healing would come with time. But. Instead of feeding on Jesus in my hungry heart, I fed on fear. I let numbness eat away at me as my cravings consumed me. My appetite remained, my heart was hungry.
My desires were lacking, but deeper still was a longing to seek filling in the Secret Place of Thunder, in the very Person of Jesus. So I woke up one morning and uninstalled Instragram. How could a tiny application, a mere button on a device, be a black hole of consuming cubes of curated content?
I was sick and tired of scrolling, Scrolling is like playing hide and seek, only, we never really find anything, because the hidden secret is off the screen. Our hearts are seeking more than we are seeing.
Cutting off the online world creates space for true seeking and finding. There is less consumption, less noise. I have been able to distance myself in order to hear clearer and listen deeper, I have intentionally been stepping back from things that scream of busy. I have let go of the clutter, and this was something that probably needed to happen a long time ago.
But I was afraid, given my lack of desire, that taking away all the distraction would result in more emptiness. In some ways, it has exposed other things. But ultimately, removing things from my life has allowed me to seek rest and relationship and relaxation. Previously, I was resigning to being empty. I was giving up. I was distracting. Desire doesn't seen to be lacking when your senses are simulated by all these other shiny things. But.
Desire is beyond the sensory. Desire is intricately woven into the fabric and folds of our spirituality. So to seek a desire that frees and redeems and enables us to find joy and life and perspective, that requires a spiritual commitment and connection - it requires pressing into prayer and the Word and asking the Spirit to fill us with all the knowledge and love of God, to remind and reveal to us our Redeeming Christ.
My loss of desire had revealed my need for dwelling deeper in the Word, that which Jesus himself said was what man can live off instead of bread, what our hungry hearts really need. In fasting, I have had to resist the temptation to distract myself, and wrestled with resting in uncertainty. I have to return, again and again to His Word, and allow the revelation of His desire be imprinted on me, impressed on my soul, influencing my thoughts, and inspiring me to pursue intimacy with my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This Jesus. He truly is our Prince of Peace.
In the silence, the fear, the emptiness, the numbness, the lack of desire:
He fills us with His peace.
S H A L O M
As a society, we struggle with being still. We also have qualms about quietness. We allow distraction and noise to fill us, instead of resting in stillness. When we quiet our souls, we get scared of being alone in our own thoughts and feelings. We forget that our hearts are hungry. While our minds are always eating, consuming … we find ourselves e m p t y; eaten away by anxieties. But true, deep, eternal desire can be found…the lasting kind…the one that can never be lost. I cannot begin to explain to surpassing peace of the pastures of His presence. As he promises to lead us by still waters. As we proclaim with the Psalmist that we “shall not want“, because we have all we need in Him (see Psalm 23).
Intimacy with Him: here is where desire is found and unfolds before our eyes.